Do “The Rookie” and Other New Cop Shows Position White Officers As Heroes Battling Minorities In Leadership Roles? Read Elizabeth Hoover’s Review at WaPo

In her review “Today’s Cop Dramas Are Obsessed With Fighting “Political Correctness,” critic Elizabeth Hoover considers whether a number of new police procedurals, such as “The Rookie,” “Chicago P.D.,” and “Training Day,” send a message to viewers that the white protagonist police officers are heroes who push back against the female and minorities in charge of their departments who have little or no understanding of the challenges facing law enforcement. She cites the depiction of white officers willing to bend or break rules in order to “get the job done” as evidence that these shows are at least suggesting such views.

The focus on a single heroic officer in a police drama isn’t new — it hearkens to the early days of cop shows. But yesterday’s fictional cops, in “Dragnet,” “Adam-12” and “Columbo,” were morally impeccable, unlike today’s rule breakers. And today’s crop of white, heroic men have new problems: Now they must battle both crime and women and people of color in supervisory roles. These higher-ups are so blinded by “political correctness” that they are more concerned with destroying white men’s careers than with the safety of the city. They also tend to be out of touch, naive or motivated by personal greed. On “Bosch,” the black police chief dines in fancy restaurants, has a driver who holds his car door and thinks more about politics than fighting crime.


Ms. Hoover cites both episodes from these shows and a 2015 article that supports her contention. The legalized “vigilante justice” that we have seen in tv series from time to time, she suggests, now seems to be a feature.

Further Reading

More about police procedurals, police officer violence, and pop culture in these works. To get access to some materials, you might need a subscription.

Mia Consalvo, Hegemony, Domestic Violence, and Cops: A Critique of Concordance, 26 Journal of Popular Film and Television 62 (April 2010).

Ken Dowler, Police Dramas on Television, Criminology and Criminal Justice: Oxford Research Encyclopedias.

Entertaining Crime: Television Reality Programs (Mark Fishman and Gray Cavender, eds., Aldine De Gruyter, 1998).

James A. Inciardi and Juliet L. Dee, From the Keystone Cops to Miami Vice: Images of Policing in American Popular Culture, 21 Journal of Popular Culture 84 (Fall 1987).

Ricardo Lopez and Ted Johnson, Movies, TV Shows Evolve to Reflect a Changing, More Complex View of Police, Variety, August 1, 2017.

Alice McGovern and Nickie D. Phillips, Police, Media, and Popular Culture, Criminology and Criminal Justice: Oxford Research Encyclopedias.

Robert Reiner, The Dialectics of Dixon: The Changing Image of the TV Cop, in Police Force, Police Service 11 (M. Stephens and S. Becker, eds. London: Palgrave, 1994).  Image of British police officers in pop culture.

Alyssa Rosenberg, Dragnets, Dirty Harrys, and Dying Hard: 100 Years of the Police in Pop Culture. Part I (Washington Post, October 24, 2016). Part II (Washington Post, October 25, 2016).

Part III (Washington Post, October 26, 2016). Part IV (Washington Post, October 27, 2016).   Part V (Washington Post, October 28, 2016).

Steven D. Stark, Perry Mason Meets Sonny Crockett: The History of Lawyers and the Police as Television Heroes, 42 U. Miami Law Review 229 (1987-1988).